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Old 21.01.2008, 12:17
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Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Okay, I was asked on another thread to put together some thoughts on how to avoid (or at least reduce the likelyhood of) being burgled. Unfortunately a number of members of this forum have been burgled recently. I work in Security responding to burglary alarms so I unfortunately see a lot of break-ins. So here are a couple of personal observations. The list is incomplete (and always will be, I guess). If anyone has anything to add, fire away. It's a serious and unpleasant topic, unfortunately, so I'll avoid the humorous comments. But only in this thread...

- Burglars exploit your laziness. If you leave a window (even and upstairs one) open, they'll be in like a shot. This happens soooooo often it beggars belief. if you leave a spare doorkey hidden outside, they'll find it. The doormat is a bad place to hide a key. So is the flowerpot near the door. Far too obvious. Quite apart from the fact that you are making the burglars' "job" easier by doing so, the insurance company is likely to dock payout when you claim after the burglary based on this kind of not particularly clever behaviour. Use all of the security equipment you have in place. EVERY time you leave the house. Okay, if you're going shopping down the road it's different. Lock up everything, leave some lights on and TURN ON THE BURGLAR ALARM, if you have one. If you're going away for a few days, close the shutters, lock all the windows, have a neighbour empty you letterbox (or better, ask the post office to hold you mail back until you get home. Closing up everything will broadcast the fact that you're away, true. But it'll make breaking in a bit more difficult and a lot noisier.

- If you have a garden out back which is nicely hidden by shrubbery, then consider installing floodlights triggered by movement sensors. Not very expensive and really p*sses the burglars off because they can't sneak around unseen. Here it's called "Schockbeleuchtung" (shock lighting). Not very expensive and pretty effective.

- Consider getting a burglar alarm. Nowadays there are systems which won't cost a packet, which aren't too expensive to have installed and which are pretty clever. If there's a power-cut, the alarm will stay functional for 48 hours or longer but send a "help - no power" message, so we'll stop by and check. So burglars can't kill the alarm by short-circuiting the garden lighting or something. Also, they will kick off an ear-splitting siren (believe me on this, I know) and submit a telephone message calling for intervention. This is usually a private security company who will be there as soon as it takes to drive there (without flashing blue lights). Sometimes (according to the customers' wishes) the police will also be called automatically. More often not, because false alarms get expensive if the police turn up every time. New systems even have radio contact from the motion sensors to the central control unit, so there's practically no cable installation to be done. This makes these systems interesting for a rented flat as well. If the phone's out, the systems can call for help using GSM (mobile phone). And if someone tries to sabotage the system, all hell breaks loose. The cost of an alarm like that may be offset by the reduction in insurance premium following the installation of the alarm and the bit you have to pay following a burglary loss. Maybe.

- Be careful with cleaning staff. Make sure you trust everybody you allow unsupervised access to your home. If your cleaning staff comes in while you're away on holiday, make sure that they undestand that they are not to hand the alarm system codes and keys off to their brother's colleague's cousin's acquaintance who offered to come in and clean when your cleaning staff is off on holiday of their own. This has happened a couple of times, usually with small cleaning companies cleaning office buildings. Suddenly people turn up who are NOT authorised to enter the premises but who "got the key from XYZ who usually works here - she sprained her ankle and asked me to help out. I'm her cousin." Yeah. The problem is not so much that the cleaning staff will steal things (let's be fair on them - they work hard for their money) but that you lose control over who has the alarm system codes and so on.

- If you belong to the "leave the lights on" crowd, then at least get a handful of timers. Weekly ones ideally. Then plug lights and the TV into these timer and set them to turn things on and off IRREGULARLY. Burglars watch out for patterns. So if the bedroom light goes on at exactly 19:02 two nights in a row, it's a timer and no-one's home. Break the patterns and make it difficult for the burglars to see into the house. Best is to ask a trusted neighbour to close the blinds and draw the curtains in the evenings and open the blinds in the morning. Then it looks like someone's home.

- If you do have the misfortune to actually encounter a burglar (happened to me twice), don't play the hero. The burglar is there to steal stuff, not to hurt you, so he (or she - equal rights...) won't have any interest in doing you any harm. If he does hurt you and gets caught, he's going to be looking at a great deal longer sentence than if he breaks in, steals stuff and then runs. They know that. Don't stand between them and their way out of there. Put your hands where they can see that you aren't armed. Back away, let them run off. Try to remember what they looked like for the police later, but don't try to stop them escaping unless you are absolutely certain you can do so and are prepared to run the risk of getting stabbed or shot. I'm not.

- Again, lock up things that are lockable. Close shutters, make life difficult for a burglar. Then they'll most likely move on to someone else who is more "cooperative" down the road.

Nothing really new here, I know, but that's the whole point. Most of burglary prevention is common sense and actually being aware of the fact the "it could happen to me if I don't pay attention".

Cheers, Danis

P.S. feel free to PM me for any specific questions.
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Old 21.01.2008, 12:22
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

I've a question (or two) about alarms:

Firstly, many people rent here - are there alarms which can be installed with the minimum of cabling and fuss - so that they can be removed at the end of the rental period easily?

Secondly, retrofitting an alarm system to a home - ballpark figure of how expensive it could be and what key elements to ensure you have?
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Old 21.01.2008, 12:29
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

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I've a question (or two) about alarms:

Firstly, many people rent here - are there alarms which can be installed with the minimum of cabling and fuss - so that they can be removed at the end of the rental period easily?

Secondly, retrofitting an alarm system to a home - ballpark figure of how expensive it could be and what key elements to ensure you have?
How much of a problem are false alarms, especially in Switzerland?

I really, really don't want to piss off my neighbours with false alarms, and I'd imagine a fine would quickly follow repeat offenses.
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Old 21.01.2008, 12:29
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

can you also recommend companies who would fit alarms for you

Thanks
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Old 21.01.2008, 22:14
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Sorry - was off at work and just got back to the computer. I'll do my best to reply to your questions:

Lob - there are systems which need very little cable installing. Mainly a power cable to the main central control panel whatsit where you type in your code to turn it on and off. See below for one company that has such systems. Prices... Well, it really depends on whether you are happy with the basic set or need "special stuff". I'm not an laram system salesman, so don't quote me on this. A basic package could be one control panel, four or five motion sensors and a magnetic contact for the main entrance. Then the technicians would work out the best placement of the motion sensors (like watching the windows) and design the layout. That's the basic thing. If you need more sensors or a second control panel by the garage entrance or things like that, it'll up the price a bit. The systems can be scaled up pretty well, especially the newer systems that have no cable connection between the control panel and the sensors, they just communicate by radio and have a battery that gets replaced regularly by a technician according to a maintenance schedule (included in the price). Ballpark figure... let me dodge the issue for the moment and get back to you after cornering a sales person.

Peachy - False alarms don't make you popular with the neighbours. True. But an alarm will usually howl for a minute or two and then shut up (except I got stuck with one once that went one and on and on at three o'clock in the morning. I didn't know Swiss could swear so loudly.) You can decide whether you want an outside siren or just an indoors one. The latter will really hurt anyone's ears inside the building but not really bother the heighbours too much. The point being that the alarm sends off an emergency call. It's not really the siren that drives off the burglars but the knowledge that the police or burly security guys are piling down the steps into their cars. You can avoid false alarms by closing the windows (in cold weather cold air mixing with warm air indoors can cause turbulences that can - sometimes - trigger off a motion sensor. in summer close windows when you're away to keep out moths and so on as they can trigger motion sensors. Spiders on the sensors also kick them off. Oh yeah, and don't put your fax machine right below a motion sensor or guess what'll happen when a fax arrives? Oooooooweeeeeeeoooooooweeeeeeeoooooooweeeeee.

Sharon - Without wanting to advertise, one of the companies I would personally definitely shortlist here in Switzerland is Securitas Direct (http://www.securitas-direct.ch/). They're well established and have a really nifty package product not targeted at huge corporations and banks but at consumer-level users. And they work very well. I see a lot of these and am happy working with them. There are others, but Securitas Direct are also big enough that they can dam' well send a salesperson by who can speak decent Iiiinglisch. They will also design, install and maintain the system. There are others but I'd have to research. I'd stay away from the do-it-yourself kits. a burglar can "undo it himself" pretty quick.

Hope this helps, Cheers, Danis
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Old 22.01.2008, 19:45
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Do you have some basic safety advice for women outside at night
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Old 23.01.2008, 08:48
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Excellent posts, thanks

With regard to motion sensors, what suggestions would you give to people with pets? We have a couple of cats which move around the house freely. Our house has an alarm system but we haven't activated it for this reason. The sensors are all up and there's a rotating alarm light on the front of the house, but at best it's merely a deterrent.
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Old 23.01.2008, 09:27
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Bluefish - I'll respond to your question in a separate post below.

Spanky - There are a number of things you can do if you have pets and motion sensors on an alarm system. This is what I see:

Option 1: If the alarm system and/or the type of motion sensor allows it, calibrate the sensors (reduce their sensitivity) so that they won't be triggered off by the cat or dog. The technician can do this by actually "tuning" the sensor (not possible with the very basic sensors), adjusting its angle so it "sees" a standing-up adult but would miss a pet. The simpler alarm systems may not have the tuning option, but on more sophisticated ones, it's worth asking about.

Option 2: Some alarm systems have various different ways you can turn them on. I see something along the following lines a lot:
i) Turn on the whole alarm, system - no-one is in the building, activate everything.
ii) Then there are partially-active settings, typically used for when you're at home but want the doors and windows to stay protected. So if a burglar jemmies open a window the alarm will go off. In this case, the indoor motion sensors are typically not active (obviously).
iii) Finally there may be intermediate settings, like a "we're out but our pet is at home"-setting, which may leave the motion sensors turned off in those rooms where the pet is allowed to roam, like "downstairs inclusing kitchen" but have the motion sensors active in other areas which are closed off to the pet, like "my office with the safe in it and the upstairs bedrooms with my diamond tiara collection in the shoe-box undeer the bed" (yeah, well, you know what I mean...). It's kind of important to remeber to close the doors to the protected areas in such cases as this is a false alarm waiting to happen if the pet strolls in to the bedroom and triggers the alarm...

Option 3: Is a variant of the above and depends on your home and may or may not be viable. It's a pragmatic approach. If you can't "tune" the sensors or don't have a "partially on" setting, then you could have a good look at where the motion sensors are and make sure your pet cannot go into the protected rooms when you leave the house and turn on the alarm. Obviously this will be a bit more difficult in a flat than in a house. I see customers that have a whole downstairs floor of their house with guest rooms, washing machine rooms, etc. which may only have protection on the windows and doors but no motion detectors. Then they put the cat pan, cat food & water and everything down there and make sure the cat's there when they turn on the alarm. Close off the door to the downstairs level and voilà, the cat can't trigger the alarm but everything is protected.

Cheers, Danis
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Old 23.01.2008, 10:11
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Bluefish - about "advice for women outside at night"... This is a difficult one as there are so many variables, but here are a few thoughts. Once again, remember that these are purely my thoughts and may or may not be helpful

The most important point to bear in mind is that generally, Switzerland is a pretty safe place. It's important to find a healthy balance between paranoia and carelessness. Both extremes are bad news.

Although Switzerland is generally relatively safe, there are situations where you should be especially careful. Look at it this way: An attacker (whether a mugger or worse) will be most likely to attack what looks like an easy target. So anything you can do to not make yourself look like an easy target will reduce the likelihood of your being attacked. What kind of things would this be?

- Be aware of where you park if you're going to have to walk back to the car late at night. A parking place way out in plain view during daylight may look totally different after midnight when your car is the only one left and it's in a pool of shadow with nobody anywhere near. Choosing a parking place close to a tram-stop or at least near a well-lit street may be worth remembering. By all means use those "for women only" parking places in parking garages, where available. They're usually well lit and close to the exits so you're not walking for miles through a deserted and dark parking garage. Listen to your "gut feeling". If you're really uncomfortable, say, when leaving a restaurant, ask a member of staff if they could walk you to your car. Sometimes (especially if you gave them a nice tip ) they'll say "sure". A staff member is not likely to be a risk because a) a whole load of people saw him leave the restaurant with you and b) the restaurant knows who he is, where he lives and that he probably wants to keep his job at the restaurant. If you do have to walk to the car alone in an "uncomfortable" situation, have you car keys ready and in your hand. Take a good look around, then go straight to the car, unlock the door, get in immediately (don't waste time opening the rear door and putting your handbag and coat in there and then walking around the car), close the door and lock it. Then take your coat off and so on. It's inconvenient but safer. If you try to drive off and realise you have a flat tyre, don't get out and walk around the car. Beware of the helpful guy(s) who suddenly appear out of nowhere and offer to help. They may be the guys who slashed your type in the first place. Just call the Touring Club on your mobile and stay put. If you're really uncomfortable, call 117 and the police can send a car to make sure you're ok.
- Some people give women advice like "don't make eye contact with strangers . It may encourage them to talk to you." I don't know. I think a woman shuffling self-consciously along with downcast eyes looks like a pretty easy target compared to a head-held high woman striding purposefully along with intent. I asked a couple of my female security colleagues how they would react to someone threatening them on their way home. They said "I'd beat the cr*p out of him", so they probably aren't a representative cross-section of female society (or society in general) and that wasn't really helpful, but it does bring me to my bext point.
- If you are likely to be in a situations where you are or feel you are at risk, take a self-defence course. And - and this is very important - repeat the course from time to time to keep your reflexes and knowledge up to date. The primary point is not to actually beat up an attacker. The primary point is that it will give you self-confidence that a potential attacker will definitely sense. You will NOT look like an easy target. If you are attacked, then at least you will be able to get in an incapacitating kick in the goolies or something. This will buy you time to get the he** out of there. You don't have to be an Amazon Warrior to take part in these courses, but they are definitely a good idea.
- How about personal defence equipment? Hmmm... You don't carry a gun legally in Switzerland unless you have a permit, and they are next to impossible to get hold of unless you need a gun professionally and can prove it. So let's strike that one off the list. Tazers and electrical shock gadgets are explicitly forbidden in Switzerland, so don't. If the police find you with one, you'll be in trouble. Pepper spray is legal (but subject to regulation regarding substance and concentration) and easily available. But there are a few things you need to know about pepper spray:
a) A can of pepper spray is useless if it's buried at the bottom of your handbag and someone grabs you. You need to have it in easy reach.
b) You need to practice with a papper spray. You can buy practice catridges for the better pepper sprays which spray water so you can get a feel for the range and how to best hold it. Practice. Practice. If you don't, you'll mess it up when you really need it because you'll be stressed and in a rush.
c) Pepper spray hurts. A lot. You know how cutting onions burns your eyes? Think that but unimaginably stronger. And it doesn't go away after a few minutes. Do NOT use one in an enclosed space (tram or car). The only effect that will have is make sure that you get an equal measure and that really isn't the point of the whole excercise. Do not use one against the wind, it'll blow into your face and not the attacker's.
d) If you manage to spray an attacker, don't hang around. Run away. Pepper spray hurts and the attacker won't me in a particulary mellow mood if you spray him. You do NOT want him to grab hold of you once you've sprayed him as he'll be mad as a nest of psycopathich hornets. Thing is, he won't be able to see anything so if you run away, you can get away pretty well.

But having said that, prevention is better than cure. Avoiding a threatening situation is better than getting out of one. There are books and tons of web pages on the subject.

Cheers, Dani

P.S. And by the way, you may have noticed the security people who patrol around all night on bikes, foot or by car doing their rounds. It may be worth asking one of them if they could quickly walk you to your car. Usually they'll do that for you as they do understand the situation.
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Old 23.01.2008, 10:13
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Thanks for that. I suspect our system is too old and of the non-tunable sort, so I'll have a look into what options I have as far as upgrading them goes. With all the other gubbins installed already, it shouldn't be too much hassle.

Cheers
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Old 23.01.2008, 13:36
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

[QUOTE=Danis;161048]Bluefish - about "advice for women outside at night"... This is a difficult one as there are so many variables, but here are a few thoughts. Once again, remember that these are purely my thoughts and may or may not be helpful

Dani,
Thanks for this really usefull information.
One follow up question to pepper spray.
I was told I should get a new one every year or so and throw out the old one.
What are your thoughts on this.
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Old 23.01.2008, 13:53
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Yes. They have a use-by date printed on the bottom. The one I have on my uniform belt right now expires 06.09 (that's Sept 09) and I got it a year ago, so not necessary to replace it every year, just when it expires. Not quite sure why... I mean it's not as if it gets mouldy or something. probably because the effectiveness drops. Or maybe simply because the can loses pressure... Anyhow - at the company we're in the middle of a "everybody check the date on the bottom of your pepper spray and pick up a new one if yours has expired.

Anyhow - replace regularly. If you have one of those throw-away ones I'd take the opportunity to take it out into a field and try the old one out instead of throwing it away full.

Cheers, Danis
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Old 23.01.2008, 14:01
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Danis what about knives? What is the law here? What if I use a Swiss knife to defend myself?
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Old 23.01.2008, 14:13
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

what about hellfire missiles?
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Old 23.01.2008, 14:17
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Rhythmical: The law states something along the lines of "you are allowed to use force to defend yourself (and third persons), provided the force used to defend yourself is appropriate and not undue." Or something like that. So if you are attacked by a guy with a steel pipe, then the use of a knife would probably be considered okay. But only if you can't run away or defuse the situation any other way. It's messy legally. Self-defence with means that are not appropriate gets you into trouble fast. So if someone shoves me over and I pull a gun and shoot sixteen rounds into them, then I'm not going to get much sympathy from a judge. If someone threatens me (or a third person) with a gun and I whallop them over the head with a brick, then I'll be owithin the law. As long as I stop hitting him when the threat is over.

The knife thing is more about what kind of knofe you're allowed to carry and what kind of knife constitutes a weapon (in which case you can only legally carry one if you have a permit to carry a weapon - same as a pistol). Some types of knife are forbidden outright, like spring-operated flick-knives and butterfly knives. Also James-Bond type things that pretend to be a harmless pen but are in fact the barrel of a pistol. Goldfinger, wasn't it?

From memory, knives you can open and close with one hand and knoves whose blade lock into the open position tend to be considered weapons. Swiss pocket knives not. There is some degree of leeway in practical situations, though. The law on what constitues a weapon will also be changing this year, I'm told by the police. It'll be more sensible: i.e. not defining a weapon exclusively by its physical appearance but by the context in which it is used. So under the new law, the police will be able to confiscate a bread-knofe if someone is running along the Bahnhofstrasse naked screaming "I'll kill you all!" because he is using it like a weapon, even though by today's law a bread knife isn't a weapon.

Cheers, Danis

P.S. the above is from memory and without checking references, so don't quote me. If you're interested, I can look up the exact wording, etc. But the above is the general gist of it.
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Old 23.01.2008, 14:21
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

leaving the house with a knife for the purposes of self defense is likely to get either you or somebody else harmed, in situations where nobody would have otherwise been seriously harmed IMO.
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Old 23.01.2008, 14:23
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

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Danis what about knives? What is the law here? What if I use a Swiss knife to defend myself?
What are you planning to do? Twist your attacker's nipples with the tweezers? Poke him in the eye with the thing for pulling boy scouts out of horses' hooves?

Cheers,
Nick
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Old 23.01.2008, 14:28
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

I carry Swiss knife as a key holder (one of these). It takes me 5 minutes and broken nails to just get the blade out so I doubt it would help me in anyway I was just curious about the law in case I grab a kitchen knife to smack down a violent intruder
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Old 24.01.2008, 00:04
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

Personally, I'm uneasy carrying any equipment which may cause anyone else real injury when I'm off duty. That looks like an avenue to get me sued or something. So I also have the ubiquitous Swiss Pocket knife but that's it. At work it's a different situation as we get sent to where there's trouble. So they are two totally different kettles of fish fingers. Carrying a knife "for self-defence purposes" is very different in my eyes from just happening to have a knife to cut the pizza you just ordered when working late at the office. You carry the former with the implicit acceptance that it may be used as a weapon. In the latter case the intention (implicit or otherwise) isn't that it is a weapon. It's lawyer-fodder.

In a real emergency a stale baguette could be used as a self-defence weapon, of course. But I don't know of anyone who carries one for self defence, now I come to think about it...

Cheers, Danis
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Old 24.01.2008, 00:32
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Re: Twilight Break-ins - how to avoid

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From memory, knives you can open and close with one hand and knoves whose blade lock into the open position tend to be considered weapons. Swiss pocket knives not. There is some degree of leeway in practical situations, though. The law on what constitues a weapon will also be changing this year, I'm told by the police. It'll be more sensible: i.e. not defining a weapon exclusively by its physical appearance but by the context in which it is used. So under the new law, the police will be able to confiscate a bread-knofe if someone is running along the Bahnhofstrasse naked screaming "I'll kill you all!" because he is using it like a weapon, even though by today's law a bread knife isn't a weapon.

Cheers, Danis

P.S. the above is from memory and without checking references, so don't quote me. If you're interested, I can look up the exact wording, etc. But the above is the general gist of it.
I'd be interested in knowing more about this, if you don't mind. I have a little Buck Metro in my purse I've carried for years. The blade is less than 3cm long so I never imagined it would be considered a weapon. But it's a liner-lock and it does open neatly with one hand.

Maybe I'd best leave it home tomorrow while awaiting a reply.
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